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UPDATE: NDP calls for right to water, commons to be reflected in Great Lakes Protection Act

Jonah Schein

Jonah Schein

On Tuesday in the Ontario Legislature, NDP Toronto-Davenport MPP Jonah Schein stated, “There needs to be a shift in how the Great Lakes are viewed, I believe. The Great Lakes are a shared public good. We need to stop seeing this invaluable part of our province as primarily a resource for private profit. Groups like the Council of Canadians have made clear that the root cause of degradation of the Great Lakes is the traditional view of the lakes solely as a source for private profit or for personal benefit. But we need to shift our thinking to see it as a shared public resource, a commons to be shared and protected and managed by those living around the lakes. Communities must have the right to say no to projects that destroy, divert or withdraw vast amounts of water from the Great Lakes.”

He then highlighted, “In 2010, 122 countries voted to pass a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly recognizing the human right to water and to sanitation. The Ontario NDP has promoted this vision by urging the Liberal government to reference the right to water in the Water Opportunities Act, passed in 2010. …The Liberal government now has the opportunity to recognize the human right to water and sanitation in the Great Lakes Protection Act. This recognition would require the government to uphold its obligations to respect, protect and fulfill this right. …The government should also consider a process for citizens and communities living on the basin to sue corporations and governments that are knowingly polluting their local water sources, for violation of their human right to clean water, and a declaration that water and waste water services are public services to be equitably and affordably provided by government.”

Also, in what appears to be a nod to the Blue Communities Project, Schein adds, “This vision is already reflected in community efforts across Ontario to pass resolutions to ban the sale of bottled water in municipally owned facilities and at municipal events, and to reject the public-private partnership for water and sanitation services.”

Cheri DiNovo

Cheri DiNovo

And yesterday, NDP Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo critiqued the Great Lakes Protection Act in the Legislature by stating, “So we have a bill that sets up a council to talk about strategies and what to do to save the Great Lakes, but there are no targets, there are no requirements-no requirements whatsoever, really-in this bill to do anything about it. …(But) we’re supporting it so we can get it to committee so that we can give it some teeth… The Council of Canadians-it makes me think of them and their incredible work on water. …Yes, Maude Barlow-I mean, this is a huge topic that this bill does not address in any way, shape or form. So by voting for it, by giving it assent, we push it forward to committee, where, I hope, everyone here will actually, with this framework, build a house on it, build something on it that will actually protect something.”

In the October 6, 2011 provincial election, the Liberals formed a minority government and now hold 51 seats in the 107-seat Legislature. The NDP hold 18 seats, while the Conservatives have 36 seats. It has been speculated that a provincial election could come at any time this year.

For more, please read:
UPDATE: Barlow tour to tackle critical Great Lakes issues
NEWS: Ontario affirms it will develop a Great Lakes Protection Act
NEWS: McGuinty unveils Water Opportunities Act